What’s bigger than a smart phone, less cumbersome than a laptop and can be used for business, entertainment and social networking? The answer is the ever-popular tablet. Yes, Apple’s iPad charted the course, but Android-based tablets are becoming serious contenders. Now, LCD TV manufacturers, Toshiba and Vizio, have jumped on the bandwagon and will be releasing their own smart tablets this year.

Announced on the heels of CES, Vizio will launch its own Android-based smart phone and tablet, known as the Vizio VIA Phone and Vizio VIA Tablet, respectively. Vizio, who produces some of the finest flat-screen TVs ever to be used in our TV lift cabinets, must see the potential market share for their 1 GHz processor, Wi-Fi-, GPS- and Bluetooth-enabled mobile devices. Their VIA Phone will feature a 4-inch touch screen and 5-megapixel camera. The VIA Tablet comes with an 8-inch screen and three speakers, perfect for its HD video playback capability. Vizio’s VIA line will provide customers a unified experience, as the company’s HDTVs and Blu-ray players either already have, or will have, the same Android-based capabilities. Perhaps the new “3D” experience will be talking on a Vizio phone via Bluetooth while playing Angry Birds on a Vizio tablet while watching Toy Story 3 on a Vizio HDTV that sits on a TV lift cabinet.

The other TV-giant, Toshiba, also announced at CES an Android tablet. This one is an appealing 10.1-inch version that also comes with a full-sized USB and mini-USB jack, HDMI and SD card slot. Its back cover is constructed of a rubberized, spill-resistant, replaceable material. So far its only drawback is that it comes in at 1.7 pounds, compared to Apple’s iPad at 1.6 pounds (3G+Wi-Fi model). But who’s counting .1 pounds?

With Vizio and Toshiba’s announcement to join the ranks of tablet producers, it doesn’t mean other TV manufacturers are dormant. In fact and fairness, Samsung was one of the first to produce an Android-based tablet after Apple’s iPad hit the shelves. Their Galaxy Tab had already sold over a million units before mid-December.

The real history of the tablet started back in 2002 when Microsoft released the Tablet PC, but it never quite took off because it ran a Windows OS, not a mobile-suited platform, and its price tag was around $2,000.

2011 is clearly poised to be “The Year of the Tablet,” as so many companies are competing for a piece of the tablet “pie.” Will you get one this year?